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Heritage Day is here!

AHOSKIE – It’s back…bigger and better than ever.

After four years of tinkering with several plans, Town of Ahoskie officials have apparently hit a proverbial homerun with its latest offering of Heritage Day.

That much-anticipated fifth annual event officially begins on Friday and runs through Saturday night. Actually, those seeking an early jump on the event can venture down to the Ahoskie Creek Recreational Complex on Thursday evening. There they can satisfy their adventurous side by visiting the new “midway” area where Michael’s Amusements have set up a variety of rides for all ages beginning at 6 p.m. The rides end at 10 p.m. The midway reopens at 6 p.m. on Friday and the rides will be offered all day on Saturday.

“Since we first began celebrating this special weekend in Ahoskie five years ago, I’ve always wanted to have mechanical amusement rides,” Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn said. “Well, this year I finally got my wish. I think having the rides adds another level of entertainment to our event.”

Friday is the official opener for Heritage Day. While those in attendance can enjoy the rides on the midway, the main attraction is the popular “Band of Oz.” They will make Ahoskie history by being the very first musical group to perform on the newly constructed amphitheater, located on the southern loop of Edgewood Drive. A dedication of the amphitheater will take place at 6:45 p.m. The band takes the stage at 7 p.m. for a “Beach Music” show that ends at 11 p.m. A fireworks display is scheduled for 9:15 p.m.

Come hungry on Friday night as the Ahoskie Jaycees and Junior Women’s Club will offer food and beverages for sell.

Saturday is packed full of events that the entire family can enjoy. The day begins with the annual Heritage Day Parade (10 a.m. on Main Street). The parade will be led-off by the ViQuest 5K Heritage Day run.

At the Heritage Day grounds (the new recreational complex is located behind Roanoke-Chowan Hospital at the old FEMA Buy-out area), Saturday’s events continue with the following line-up:

Whole Hog Backyard Barbecue Cook-off (all day); plates available for $8 in advance; $10 on Saturday. Call (209-1686 for advance tickets. Proceeds benefit the Ahoskie Public Library.

PAWS Klassic Klips and Adoptions (11 a.m. – 3 p.m.)

Pumpkin Decorating (11 a.m. – 2 p.m.)

Gospel Highway Band (12 noon)

Horseshoe Tournament (12 noon; entry fee is $20)

3-on-3 Basketball Tournament (1 p.m.)

Donnie Harris, solo singer (1 p.m.)

Pie-Eating Contest (1 p.m.)

Tar River Boys Band (2 p.m.)

Deuces Wild Band (3 p.m.)

Navy Rock Band (5 p.m.)

Fantastic Shakers Band (7 p.m.)

In conjunction with Ahoskie Heritage Day, the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce will host its 38th annual Indian Summer Days Show & Sale. This arts and crafts event will be held Friday (11 a.m. – 7 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) at the Town of Ahoskie Gym on Main Street. Admission is free. Concessions are available.

Also at the Town Gym is the Roanoke-Chowan Hospital Health Expo. This free event is scheduled for 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Over at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, the annual Heritage Day Art Show is scheduled for 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday.

As an added treat, the Guardian Care Relay for Life team will once again host the ever-popular North Carolina High School Rodeo on Saturday at the Heritage Day site. Two shows (12 noon and 7 p.m.) are scheduled. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. Proceeds benefit the Hertford-Gates Relay for Life.

“Over the past five years we have witnessed a tremendous growth in the participation and support for the festival,” Blackburn said, “and for this we are most appreciative. Festivals of this type do not succeed without growing pains and we have certainly had our fair share of them. ”What has been significant and what has sustained us throughout, however, has been the dedication of the Heritage Day Planning Committee and the ongoing support of this community. When a group of people come together with a shared vision and dream, there is no end to what can be accomplished. The Heritage Day Planning Committee is one of those groups. It has been a delight to have shared with them over the past five years a vision of growing Ahoskie Heritage Day into a festival for which this community can be proud.”